Five takeaways from UVA basketball’s close loss to Northeastern
What do we take away from that game, whatever it is?
Well… I have no idea what that was. But the Virginia Cavaliers won the basketball game against the Northeastern Huskies 56-54, so we have five takeaways for the Hoos.
Rhys Beckman is clutch
21 points, 9-18 shooting, six rebounds, five assists, just one turnover, two steals, and the game-winning bucket with five seconds left. Just Another Day in the Park by Rhys Beckman.
Beckman was the only Wahoo to score more than eight points. He either scored or assisted on UVA’s last four baskets, scoring four points in the final minute of play to lead Virginia 54-52 to 56-54. He was the only reliable source of offense the entire game, and without him UVA would have a very bad loss on their resume that will stick with them for the rest of the season.
Beckman is not only the best player on the team, he is what makes him a good player. There’s no doubt that the guys around him are talented, but no one else can incorporate the skill set on this team as well as he can. He plays and impacts games as well and as clutch (yes I know that’s not a word) as anyone in college basketball.
Without him, UVA would have a pair of Quad 4 losses already this season (the other likely coming against West Virginia in Fort Myers). Beckman is one of the best guards to come through this program under Tony Bennett, and he asserted his status once again tonight.
Virginia escapes despite a bad performance against a bad team
Call it “post-test rust,” call it “brawn” in the face of a stubborn, mediocre opponent hungry for a definitive win, call it what you will. Virginia played a bad game against a bad team in Northeastern and was bailed out by their senior leader late.
To some extent, this is just December basketball and the fact that Northeastern had a player in Chris Doherty who was able to exploit UVA’s weakness in defending the paint. But it also speaks to the volatile nature of this roster and the fact that this group is particularly young and inexperienced playing together.
Of course, the Cavaliers also have issues with Dante Harris out of the lineup and Andrew Ruud not practicing much lately due to a nagging injury. This combined with the test rust plus an opponent who had the right combination of players to give Virginia problems and a defensive game plan to run Wahoo shooters on the line resulted in a major upset.
It seems silly to categorize this as a gritty win that good teams win and average teams lose… but this is the kind of win that good teams manage to pull off and average teams lose. A win is a win, after all.
Interior defense and creating the secondary continue to be issues
This game showed that the two biggest problems UVA has faced so far this season are still very present. Guarding the inside defensively and then creating offense outside of Beekman (at best) have been inconsistencies on this roster so far this season, and it almost bit the ‘Hoos in the butt against Northeastern.
Northeastern scored 32 of its 54 points in the paint. The offensive boards actually weren’t much of an issue after the first 10 minutes — the Huskies totaled just six offensive rebounds and four second-chance points. But having Doherty (12 points, five assists, 6-10 shooting) as a scorer who can create shots for his teammates when Virginia collapsed on him posed a big problem for UVA’s defense especially early in the game.
Outside of Beckman, UVA shot 13-35 (37.1%) from the floor. Andrew Rudd had six assists, but shot 0-5 from the floor with four players other than Beckman Virginia going 8-27 (29.6%) for 21 points on the night while making just 2 of 14 three-point attempts. (14.3%). They played enough to win the game, but that won’t take away from the real competition.
Easy points elude the ‘Hoos
UVA shot 55.6% on free throws and 38.9% on layups against Northeastern.
These numbers usually lose basketball games.
Blake Buchanan keeps missing free throws (and missing them badly). While it’s worth giving a true freshman some slack, a big man who only scores around the basket when people are prone to foul him has to be able to not only finish through contact (which he doesn’t do well) but convert at the line. When he gets there.
Beyond Buchanan, the poor shooting at the rim suggested Virginia simply didn’t produce a lot of easy baskets, and the eye test backed that up. Beckman eventually chipped and sliced his way to the rim enough to produce some easy baskets late. But if the Hoos are going to have nights where they shoot 14.3% from deep and opponents push them away from the 3-point line, they need to convert more when they have easy scoring opportunities.
UVA continues to live on opponent turnovers
Virginia scored 19 points off 17 Northeastern turnovers in the win. The Hoos had eight steals and four blocks. This team is not used to playing defensively, and they will be able to rely on Beckman and Ryan Dunn to finish defensive possessions because of how tight they are on the ball (I’m going to make up all kinds of words tonight).
But teams that keep the ball out of harm’s way and can bomb the paint will be able to have their way with this one (like Wisconsin did) unless things change. The extra possessions Virginia generates by being defensive pests were absolutely huge against Northeastern. This is not the most sustainable way to win basketball games.
This could be a “Men-in-Black” game to erase your memory once we get into the heart of the multiplayer. However, the issues that persisted in this game are ones that the Hoos will need to either find answers to or find ways to limit their impact if they are going to be a nationally competitive team in February and September. He walks.